A planet’s birth revealed in amazing image from world’s most powerful telescope

November 7, 2014 at 06:03 (Uncategorized)

National Post | News

NRAO/AUI/NSF NRAO/AUI/NSF

Protoplanetary disks are the source of planet formation, but until now we’ve only seen them as fuzzy blobs, or in artistic renderings. But in a new image from ALMA (the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array), we see the disk left behind after a star birth in stunning new clarity.

Stars form when gas and dust are crushed together by gravity. The leftover particles gather around the new star, forming the concentric disks you can see in the image above. Over time, these tiny particles group together to form rocks, and eventually asteroids — and even planets — can be born from the dust.

Observing protoplanetary disks is important for obvious reasons: The closer we get to watching a planet actually being born, the better we’ll understand our own planet’s origins.

This particular disk surrounds a young star named HL Tau, located around 450 light years from Earth in the constellation…

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